Pancake 1: a new VR headset will debut at CES 2023With Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, Hulu, all pre-installed, and the promise to play 2D, 3D, 360 videos and 8K movies without extra software, the Pancake 1 aims to be the new standard for VR headsets.

A standalone VR headset that also works as PCVR and offers the best resolution and modern lenses sounds like the Holy Grail. Pancake 1, which will be at CES 2023, in Las Vegas, may be that device!

Pancake 1: a new VR headset will debut at CES 2023After the disastrous announcement of the DPVR E4 VR headset, presented as a game changer but in fact lacking in multiple areas, VR enthusiasts are looking at what can be the next VR headset coming from the East: the Pancake 1, from another Chinese company, Pancake XR, appears to be the answer to the dreams of both gamers and those looking for a tool for work or entertainment, from VR experiences to watching movies. With a resolution of 4560×2280 (dual 2.1 inch 2,280×2,280 Fast-LCD), 1512 PPI, 105° FOV and 90Hz, the Pancake 1 points directly to the type of lenses it uses: pancake, instead of the regular Fresnel lenses that have been common in VR headsets.

Pancake lenses point towards the future of VR headsets, allowing for devices that look less like a shoebox you’ve attached to your face. Although the industry is trying to achieve designs that look almost like regular glasses, the recent Pico 4 VR is a good example of what’s possible now, and the Pancake 1 aims to take things further. Pancake XR says that it is built around an ultra-short folded optical solution that makes the volume shrink 3/4, and the weight cut by 1/2. With only 189 grams for the headset without the halo-type strap and 32.5mm depth, the Pancake 1 is introduced as a tailored for everyone, a claim that is based on three of its key characteristics: diopter, IPD and headband.

The specifications mentioned above make the Pancake 1, in fact, an interesting solution, if all are implemented. The headband, halo-type, allows ample adjustment and allows for the headset to flip-up at a 90-degree angle, the IPD or InterPupillary Distance adjustment – 59-68mm – is enough for most users and the headset also offers diopter adjustment ( 0-500 each eye), meaning you do not need to use glasses or even prescription lens adapters, something that is not usually present in other VR headsets. As for the IPD, it would be nice to see it extended to 72mm, but maybe this can be achieved if the adjustment is made through software, as happens with the Pico 4 standalone headset. The Pancake 1 also has passthrough support, although not specified.

Pancake 1: a new VR headset will debut at CES 2023Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, Hulu and more

Offering a “5K Breathtaking Visual Feast” as Pancake XR notes, the headset has brighter brights, deeper darks, sharper details and more vivid colors, achieved by 2 independent 2.1-inch Fast LCD displays, deliver an astonishing immersive IMAX cinematic experience. With low latency and fast fresh rate that prevents any door effort & dizziness, the Pancake 1 is able to play 2D, 3D, 360-degree videos, and 8K movies as well as original 8K footage captured by your DJI, Insta360 or Kandao without extra software.

Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, Hulu, all these major streaming applications are pre-installed, says the company, adding that users can download their favorite VR games and applications from the Steam VR and Viveport APP store. Pancake XR says that all you need is to simply click and immerse yourself in a wonderful new journey. If compatibility is there and it all works as promised, the new headset is bound to become an exciting solution for 2023.

Pancake 1: a new VR headset will debut at CES 2023The slim and compact body contains a 7nm Qualcomm XR2 processor, GPU Adreno 650, 6GB RAM, 128 ROM, WiFi 6 Module and 4 global shutter cameras. In terms of sound, it offers panoramic 3D Stereo Audio through two built-in speakers. Pancake XR says that “the sound field is wide and the audio is clear and layered. Thanks to the of intelligent power amplifier chips, the dynamic range of music output is greatly improved, the bass is stronger, and the sound quality is directional and spatial. External headphones are also supported via Bluetooth or a Type-C jack.”

A standalone headset, the Pancake 1 also offers PC streaming, wired or wireless, according to the company. The information available indicates that “besides the all-in-one mode, if you want to play more demanding VR games, Pancake 1 can also work as a PCVR headset connected to the SteamVR wirelessly by the fast WiFi 6 connection. Of course, it can also support a direct cable connection via a DP protocol.”

Pancake 1: a new VR headset will debut at CES 2023What’s a DP protocol?

The Display Port connection, so important for those who prefer to have a PCVR, for the better image quality it offers, is the only aspect not clearly explained by Pancake XR. The specifications indicate that “DP output” – shouldn’t it be input? – is supported, but nowhere does it say the signal is not compressed and the note that the headset supports “a direct cable connection via a DP protocol” points to the use of the USB-C port, which may or may not be using a compressed signal. We’ve reached out to the company, but their answer didn’t fully solve the mystery. As the Pancake 1 is a AIO (All-In-One) VR headset, it probably just uses wireless or the USB-C connection to receive a compresses video signal. Pancake XR will have to clarify this.

Now, with the DPVR fiasco in mind, it’s only natural that people ask where does this new VR player come from? Pancake XR is a consumer electronics brand focusing on Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality Head devices. On its website one reads that “Our team is comprised of creative and vigorous young scientists, designers, hardware engineers, and software developers with over 10 years of know-how. We are originated from Skyworth VR team, who mainly provide enterprise business solutions in the past several years. Pancake was created to meet consumer market.”

Skyworth VR is a name well known in China. In fact, the Pancake 1 from Pancake XR is not new: last September the company launched the Skyworth Pancake 1, announced with a retail price of $600. The model from Pancake XR appears to be almost identical, and due to the connection between the companies it’s not hard to see that this is a rebranding, maybe with the Western markets in mind. It’s another Chinese company trying to gain space in the market. One can only hope that the Pancake 1 performs better than the headset from DPVR. On paper, at least, it sounds as very good. To good to be true?

Pancake 1: a new VR headset will debut at CES 2023Is 2023 the year VR becomes popular?

Pancake XR announced they will be at CES 2022, in Las Vegas, January 5-8, but will show the Pancake 1 only behind close doors, and for a restrict group of people invited. Still, when it happens, as the headset is a key product of their catalog, it will be possible to confirm if the Pancake 1 is true or simply another vaporware promise. First units will arrive in Western countries next February, we’re told, but probably just for a group of people that will have a chance to try the device.

CES 2023 will also be the stage for other announcements in terms of XR… meaning everything for both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. It’s as if, after a period during which key names seemed to move away from the area, companies have found reasons to return or invest in XR. Will the Las Vegas event that starts the year, from 5 to 8 January, bring news from HP, maybe with a “secret” Reverb G3 with pancake optics… and a more reliable cable connection?

Whatever HP reveals – or not – it appears that 2023 will be a good year for VR. With Panasonic preparing its Shiftall MeganeX glasses, Samsung suggesting a return to VR,  HTC aiming to make waves in both AR and VR, Sharp showing a prototype of a VR headset and brands as Pancake XR, with the promised Pancake 1, contributing to a market that needs competition and alternatives to the Meta Oculus Quest closed universe, we may well see the public discovering that VR is more than games for kids. The recently launched Pico 4, from Pico, which is fairly priced and offers better quality than the Meta Oculus Quest 2 is a clear choice now, although it’s not available – yet – in North America, unless imported. If the Pancake 1 also makes it to Western countries, the market for VR may grow, and more hardware available to choose from means more public for software created to run on VR.

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